What's the relationship between arcus senilis and high cholesterol?

Answers from Thomas Behrenbeck, M.D., Ph.D.

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Arcus senilis (AHR-kus see-NIL-us) and the eye problems caused by high cholesterol are different.

Arcus senilis, also known as arcus corneae, is a gray or white arc visible above and below the outer part of the cornea — the clear, dome-like covering over the front of the eye. Eventually, the arc may become a complete ring around the cornea.

Arcus senilis is common in older adults. It's caused by fat (lipid) deposits deep in the edge of the cornea. It isn't related to high cholesterol, however. Arcus senilis doesn't affect vision, nor does it require treatment.

Eye problems caused by high cholesterol are uncommon — typically affecting only people who have severe cases of high cholesterol and high triglycerides passed down through families (familial hyperlipidemia). High cholesterol is more likely associated with a similar gray or white arc visible around the entire cornea (circumferential arcus) in younger adults. Treatment is generally aimed at controlling cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

The average person who has high cholesterol doesn't develop an arc of any type. If you're concerned about eye health and high cholesterol, talk to your doctor.

Jan. 15, 2014 See more Expert Answers